After working an entire day on the motorbikes I couldn’t see a screw driver anymore, which is not a problem at the beautiful Tim and Kim village since there are plenty of other things to do. I brought some fishing equipment from Germany and thus we went to the lake for a nice and relaxed fishing day. Apparently they have only Catfish, Tilapia and Brasses in this lake (except of course for the Hippos, Snakes and giant Warans, also known as Dragons or Monitors).
The plan was to first catch some Brasses and use them as a bait for the Catfish and Tilapia. Catching the Brasses was easy but we got nothing else. Kim said she could make fish cakes from the 8 Brasses we caught. Nice! It was a great spot at the lake and we were visited every now and then by a rather large Snake in the water which checked out if we were still around, saw us and left again. I guess we were in its favorite exit spot. Kim said it was probably a Cobra, which are found in this area.
As the only guests we had every evening dinner with Kim and Mabratu, who does a lot around this place.
The next day David was supposed to come, but we didn’t know exactly when so the two of us scheduled a canoe trip around the lake with Mabratu. Just when we were about to leave David arrived and joined us for the trip. We saw some Warans on the rocks and visited one of the twenty monastery’s on the lake Tana. Only males are allowed to set food on this island, this goes to the extent that only male animals are kept on the island, so now omelet for breakfast. They are still not sure what to do about the birds flying over the island. The low living standard of the monks was impressive. No electricity, not a single machine, their church bell is an old artillery shell from the days of the italian occupation. People in Europe pay thousands to escape civilization. They should spent two weeks working on one of these islands. One of the monks told us he was attacked by two Hippos an hour earlier on the way in. We (luckily) didn’t see a Hippo.
The next morning we left the village direction Gonder. We had a great time at this place. If you are ever near Gorgora make sure to drop by the Tim and Kim village.
We took a longer but way better maintained dirt road over Aykel which was pretty easy except for one deep river crossing. It is still rainy season in the north, so there is a lot of water and we certainly get wet at least once a day on the bikes.
We reached Gonder on the 15th of September, the day before my birthday but on this trip we go to bed so early that we weren’t able to stay up until midnight 😀
The next day was fully packed. We went to see the old castle in Gonder, build by the Amharic kings some 400 years ago. After that we mounted our bikes and headed direction Lalibela, which I liked to see on my birthday. But, the ride was too long and the last 60 km were offroad of unknown quality. The opinions ranged from easy going to close to impossible. So we decided to spent the night in an hotel completely occupied by Chinese workers. They build the roads in Ethiopia and are all over the place (which will come in handy at some point, but more later). The road took us up to 3300 m and we even had some snow along the road. A nice birthday present, with the amazing winding roads and breathtaking views in the Ethiopian highlands. Just the engines lose a lot of power in the thin air.
We pretty much only average 50 km/h on the good roads. We always have to search a lot for fuel, most gas stations have non or only sell it to locals. Forengis (this is how white people are called here) are directed to the black market to pay up to 3 times the regular price. This is very unnerving. In general we are considered as a wallet on wheels. Everybody asks for ridicules prices and most don’t haggle, so no deal. We have been approached countless times by completely healthy, well-dressed man in their twenties demanding money because we are white. This attitude is unfortunately tainting our in general good view on this beautiful country. The second, even worse habit here is the throwing of things at forengi vehicles. There are many people along the street and many pick up stones and sticks and either pretend to throw them, which is scary enough, or actually throw them at us. Daniel and I got hit already once each, luckily nothing serious, since we always wear the protective gear. I never thought it will protect me from mentally insane Ethiopians… Another “sport” is to pretend to jump in front of the bike. This is always a bit shocking. The weirdest thing is, they are super happy, laughing, smiling, waving and the next second they do these things. It’s very hard for us to understand.
There are very much children in Ethiopia, many stand along the street, watching the cattle or doing work on the fields (or just throw stuff at motorbikes). You honestly cannot stop in this gigantic country without a second later having a bunch of kids jumping out of the next bush screaming “youyouyou” and “give me money”.
The next morning we challenged the unknown 60 km off road to Lalibela. They were just super fun and we blasted along the dirt track, which was in general in a good condition, taking us from 3000 m, down to 1800 m and up to 2500 m again.
We reached Lalibela quite early and did the tour around the rock churches. Its 50 USD for forengis and free for Ethiopians (they are a bit racist around here). Anyway worth every penny. These 11 buildings, carved out of the rock during the reign of king Lalibela with the help of angels almost a 1000 years ago definitely belong to the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. And they are all in use, still every day services are hold in every church. A very special place. Since back in the days of King Lalibela the voyage to the Holy Land was very dangerous the smart King decided to rebuild the Holy Land in Ethiopia. You find everything significant symbolized, like the river Jordan, Nazareth, Jerusalem or Mount Ararat here.
Our guide in Lalibela strongly suggested us to also visit the oldest church around here, Yemrehanna Kristos, some 40 km north. So the next day we took the dirt road there and it was worth it. Again a very nice and spiritual place in the mountains. Around 500 human skeletons of people who wanted to be buried here are scattered around the church.
We had to take the same road again, plus the 60 km from Lalibela to the main road. We start to really like the dirt tracks 🙂 Our next destination was Bahir Dar, at the south end of the Lake Tana, but this couldn’t be done in one day so we slept in a Hotel on the road again. While unloading the bikes Daniel noticed a broken connection of his luggage system. That’s what you get from the fun on the dirt tracks 😀 Luckily we found a guy who get this part welded and he charged only 30 Birr (around 1 €, finally not a forengi price). With the fixed rack we made it to Bahir Dar where we found a nice place to sleep directly next to the lake.
From Bahir Dar it’s not far to the Blue Nile Falls. Surprisingly this was a very bad road again and on the way back it started to heavily rain, thus making the road not any better… We are very happy about our nice off road tires. They do a pretty good job. Who ever said you can mostly travel through Africa on tarmac must have used a different route.
From the falls we headed in the direction Addis Ababa, since we only left at 2 in the afternoon it would have been impossible to reach there in one go. The area was pretty remote and only dirt roads for the next 200 km. Luckily Daniel hat a hotel along the route in his Tracks4Africa GPS system. Like I said, bush camping is very difficult with all these people around. We reached the location of the hotel some 30 min before sunset. Unfortunately there was no trace of any hotel or anything comparable, just corn fields. Bummer… Opportunities were running out with the setting sun. Driving at night on the dirt roads is suicidal and the next hotel was some 80 km away. We continued riding in the hope to find anyplace suitable for a bush camp. Than we passed a Chinese road workers camp. They didn’t speak any English but we could make them understand that we would like to pitch our tent in their compound and that was ok. Daniel and I slept in a small hut and David preferred to pitch his tent. At night the gates were closed and only some prostitutes came in and out but obviously they knew the way to which rooms they want to go. At night a strong thunder storm hit us rendering the small hut as not the most suitable place to sleep since the rain found its way through the roof. Daniel and I quickly pitched a tent inside the hut and could get some rather uncomfortable sleep.
We left pretty early the next morning to reach Addis. First we had to tackle some 170 km of dirt road with changing grades of badness. Additionally, plenty of animals and people were on the road again. I said over our radio intercom, which we all use, that at this point I just want to get out of Ethiopia without killing someone or something. 10 min later David hit a rooster. That poor guy was done. No chance to avoid the animal. We stopped, the locals were just shrugging their shoulders. Seamed to be no big deal. David gave the owner 100 Birr, apparently more than its value and everything was fine. Sadly, this animal died for nothing. If an animal is not killed in the religious right way it will not be eaten.
The road got worse, at some point we reached a pretty deep river. Daniel just blasted through while David and I watched. Daniel somehow made it through and got almost stuck on the underwater rocks. It looked in no way like we would like to do the same. We found a way on to the bridge which was constructed over the river and crossed the river on that bridge. Not easy either, but still better than going through the river and get stuck there.
Finally we found some tarmac and continued towards Addis along the Nile Gorge. An amazing place. The road descents from 3000 m to 1200 m up to 3200 m again. At the bottom it’s pretty warm and baboons are all over the place.
The drive took a lot of time and 100 km out of Addis we had two hours before sunset. Doable, right? Nope. We should have just called it a day and find a place outside Addis to sleep. But we were so eager to make it to Addis that we pushed on. We reached the city boundaries at sunset and it started to rain (of course). We were looking for the “Wim’s Holland House”, a famous overlander place in Addis. The city is a mess right now since they build a new train track crossing the whole town. Many streets were not existing anymore or in an even worse condition than any off road we’ve done so far. That’s not a joke. So in the rain, the pitch dark, on the worst streets ever with no proper navigation and after 13 hours on the bikes, in an 7 million city we managed to find Wim’s at some point. What a great moment! We had a good dinner and a beer and went to bed right away. My advice, enter Addis at daylight!
Here in Addis we have some stuff to do and try to leave towards Kenya on Friday the 26th.taking the infamous Moyale route. Supposed to be the hardest off road on this trip. Let’s see if this holds true against Addis at night. Internet is hard to come by here and mostly too slow to update the blog. You’ll find some additional infos, pictures and even videos on our friends site www.motorrad-tour.info